Alimony refers to monthly stipends payable to a spouse or domestic partner for a specific duration after divorce. When a spousal support order is acquired as part of a divorce, your former spouse or domestic partner must start making payments as per court order. A start date for the spousal support, also known as alimony, will be included with this order. Just like child support, an alimony order naming a payor is legally binding. If spousal support is not paid, you may have several options before seeking a contempt order.
Enforcement Actions Spousal support enforcement begins with a judgement entered by the court. If child support is involved in your case, you may contact your local child support agency to provide an enforcement order. They can calculate payments owed and notify the payor of the amount due. The payor is given time to rectify their arrears, or make arrangements. Contempt charges can be filed against a payout for non-payment, partial payment, or late payment. However, this is usually the last resort, as filing the motion of contempt requires you to prove that there is an established alimony judgment entered by the court, that the payor must have knowledge of this court order, and the payor willfully violated said court order. With filing a motion of contempt towards the payor, the burden to prove violation of spousal support falls on your shoulders. Keeping a detailed record of payments received before and after an enforcement action taken on your behalf can assist your case.
One factor that may be considered is non-payment versus partial payment. Does the payor have other bills that need to be taken care of, like rent, car payments, utility bills, as well as spousal support? The question may lean towards the payor’s priorities, rather than ability to pay. Due to the recurrent nature of the alimony, each payment can be subject to separate proceedings, up to three years. Each case is unique. Depending on circumstances and the seriousness of the charges brought against the payor, whether fines or jail time, should not be taken lightly: an experienced spousal support attorney can handle the complex aspects of your case and assist you in arriving at the best solution for your needs. Garnishments and Levies Wage garnishment, also called an earnings assignment order, and levies are commonly used to enforce a spousal support order. Wage garnishment is a deduction from the debtor’s earnings payable to the entitled spouse; an employer is legally obligated to perform an earnings assignment within ten days of receipt. An employer who fails to comply with the wage garnishment is violating the spousal support order, may face legal action, and subject to contempt proceedings. If the employee had no control over the situation, they may not be guilty of contempt liability, due to the fact they did not willfully violate a court order. If your order involves child support, income types like Social Security or Disability that are usually exempt from earnings assessment become eligible for collection due under child support. Your local child support agency may garnish your wages or bank accounts, seize properties, suspend driver’s and professional licenses, or even divert federal and state tax refunds to ensure a spousal support order is met. Motion for Hearing Has the payor still failed to bring alimony payments up to date after notification and enforcement action? Filing for a motion using Form FI-195, Income for Withholding Support, which is available online from the California Courts website, will call for a hearing in the civil court that handled your spousal support case. Through filing a motion for hearing, you bring court attention to alimony payments owed, financial aspects of both parties, and apply for any and all possible solutions for a genial conclusion. The motion must be served to the other party through third party over the age of 18; law enforcement or a private process server. The court will apprise the payor of the date and time of the hearing, in which each party has a chance to explain the circumstances relating to the status of the spousal support. Contempt Proceedings
Debts cannot be enforced by contempt through any California divorce and family law order. Spousal support and family support, which is a combined case of child and spousal support, fall under support obligations and are not considered debts. Whereas payments made by the payor that satisfy a community liability or obligation, such as a house or car payment, are not enforceable through contempt unless the payee can prove that that these are integral to the support order. This can become a very tricky and rough area to navigate due to the complexity of the involved details.
According to the California Code of Civil Procedure 1218(c), for each act of contempt, the convicted spouse or parent shall be fined up to $1000 and or imprisoned for up to five days. Each nonpayment amount can be considered a separate act, meaning that the payor can be found in contempt several times, and charged ten percent annually on arrearage. The court can also assign community service.
Your Spousal Support Representation Matters
Unfortunately, having a spousal support order entered by the court does not remove the need for court intervention and legal counsel. When it comes to pursuing alimony payments, representing yourself pro-se can lead to difficulties in finding effective remedies and the resulting frustration. Having an experienced spousal support collection attorney ensures each available enforcement solution is explored.
Contact our experienced spousal support attorneys today. The professionals at Azemika & Azemika are dedicated in providing you with the immediate relief you deserve. There is no need to leave your situation up to chance when Azemika has your back. With exclusive experience in family law, Azemika & Azemika Law bring you knowledgeable alimony counsel and optimal strategies uniquely crafted for your situation.